Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

By Carola Lentz | Go to book overview

10
THE CULTURAL WORK
OF ETHNICITY

In the summer of 1989 Dr Gbellu, a doctor from Nandom living in Germany invited Dagara friends and family as well as their German wives and children and even Dagara migrants from other parts of Europe to come together at his home for a ‘Dagara family meeting’. For two days more than twenty adults gathered, as they had done in previous years, in order to celebrate and to reflect on Dagara culture and history. During the 1989 meeting, to which I had been invited, a number of those attending held avidly discussed lectures on topics such as traditional religion, initiation rituals, patri- and matriclans and Dagara historical origins. Here too the relationship between territoriality, political organisation and ethnicity, the very issues analysed in previous chapters of the present work, was, as the following excerpt from the meeting shows, a controversial matter and part of an ongoing process of negotiating their self-understanding and historicocultural heritage:

P.S.: What I would like to know from you is where … the Dagara stay,
where do you find the Dagara? … Suppose I do not know who the
Dagara are, then you could tell me: it is in this area that the Dagaras
live?

S.B.: … it’s a very wide thing, but obviously we shouldn’t exaggerate.
We just want to stress that we live in three countries, Ghana,
Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. …

D.D.: If you start from Hamile and you go all the way down to Bole
and still beyond Bole, all to the West, there you find Dagara …

S.B.: His problem is that there are also other people there. Where is
the border? [much stirring and lively discussion]

D.D.: … Naturally you don’t find a people in the world today which is
‘pure’ … Even in Nandom itself … you find Ewes there, you find
Yorubas there, but because they are in the minority, they are not
taken as important, they are living in Dagaraland.

P.S.: What I am after: certainly there are so many Dagara here [in
Gammelshausen, Germany], but we will not say that this place is
Dagara. … Where are the borders between the Dagara people and
other tribes … ?

-252-

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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps and Plates vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The North-West in the Nineteenth Century 14
  • 2 - The Introduction of Chieftaincy 33
  • 3 - The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity 72
  • 4 - The Lawra Confederacy Native Authority 104
  • 5 - Labour Migration, Home-Ties and Ethnicity 138
  • 6 - ‘Light over the Volta’- The Mission of the White Fathers 153
  • 7 - Decolonisation and Local Government Reform 175
  • 8 - ‘The Time When Politics Came’- Party Politics and Local Conflict 199
  • 9 - Ethnic Movements and Special-Interest Politics 228
  • 10 - The Cultural Work of Ethnicity 252
  • Epilogue 275
  • Notes 280
  • Abbreviations 322
  • Glossary 323
  • Divisional (Paramount) Chiefs of Lawra District 324
  • References 325
  • Index 337
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